Caribbean Hot Chocolate…

3585C44D-99DA-4432-BF26-693A7C7DFAA2The weather had been near perfect for our holiday vacation, but on the morning we were to leave – it turned chilly. Our driver was beautifully spoken, a blend of British and French perhaps, he too remarked on the chill in the air. We spoke of citrus groves and sugar cane fields long gone from Central Florida’s -Orlando; now covered with hotels, shopping malls, hotels and amusement parks; of how the cooler weather this year would affect the prices of fresh fruit later on.

I recalled, as a child, seeing fresh cut sugar cane stalks which looked like thick dark green bamboo. How we would stop at roadside stands and buy a stalk or two- stripped of the dark green outer stalk and trimmed into bite size pieces. The sugar cane is so fibrous, it can’t be eaten, however- the juice was so fresh and sweet. Our driver remarked how he enjoyed that treat too. And, he said he missed his Morning Chocolate which used fresh sugar cane juice. I asked where he was from- ‘Dominica.’ was the reply. Then he told me how his Morning Chocolate was made. I almost swooned- a Caribbean Hot Chocolate! Who would think of such a wonderful spicy blend? Made for decades, it sounded more like an updated health food concoction that wasn’t blended up into green juice! Hot, spicy, chocolate with coconut milk- amazing! D7111B69-E97C-4C99-B2B6-C049F5F8932C

This past week, while recovering from a seasonal cold and trying in vain to have a good attitude about the cold spell we’ve been having… I recalled the heavenly concoction our driver described. That Caribbean Hot Chocolate was so good, I surely had it wrong…I checked my hastily scribbled notes and tried it again- for research purposes only… who am I kidding? I wanted another cup of Caribbean Hot Chocolate! Still. I checked the nutritional values and I am happy to report- it appears to have significant health benefits! Since the driver never claimed to have a name for his Morning Chocolate- and never gave me the exact measurements- and given the fact, that Dominica is certainly south of here…don’t you know I’m gonna claim it? Here’s how you make… Camellia’s Caribbean Hot Chocolate

You will need:

  • Dark Cocoa Powder
  • Cane Sugar Syrup
  • Coconut Milk
  • Ground Cinnamon and Nutmeg- preferably freshly grated. 88CC8A48-93D0-4B00-AE8A-9A9FF0BFFD35

Method:

  • Blend 1 cup of Cane Sugar Syrup with 2 Tablespoons Dark Cocoa Powder in a small saucepan and heat until combined. (*If you aren’t able to find Cane Sugar Syrup- you may make a cane sugar syrup with equal parts cane sugar- preferably unrefined -and water.
  • Heat until sugar has melted thoroughly, chill and store in a jar indefinitely in the refrigerator. *You may also substitute dark chocolate instead of cocoa- melt it thoroughly in sugar syrup, blend until smooth.
  • When combined, add 1 cup of Coconut Milk (low fat or light coconut milk is recommended- especially if you are using dark chocolate instead of cocoa, or if you are watching calories… and who isn’t?)
  • Heat until very warm but do not boil. Pour into mug or coffee cup. Finish with a fresh grating of nutmeg and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, to taste. Enjoy!  3585C44D-99DA-4432-BF26-693A7C7DFAA2

Now, I’m not sophisticated enough to give you the nutritional values, however this is a plant based non-dairy hot chocolate.

  • Coconut milk has been shown to improve the immune system, provide essential electrolytes, helpful minerals like magnesium and iron; great for stress and relieves muscle tension, improves digestion and the protein found in Coconut Milk almost makes it an energy drink!
  • Dark Chocolate or Cocoa is an antioxidant and is said to help heart and brain function and more!
  • Those probiotics so many are fond of, generally include Nutmeg as an ingredient which aids digestion, Nutmeg has also been called a Brain Tonic, relieves pain, and some say is a natural sleep aid (making it a good bedtime drink as well!)
  • Cinnamon is well known for health benefits- with antioxidant properties and as an anti-inflammatory.

Now, I’m not ready to say- it was the cure for my Common Cold but it sure made recovery more pleasant! Our best wishes to our wonderful driver from the Commonwealth of Dominica- I wish I knew your name! All of the ingredients were native to his beautiful homeland with it’s natural hot springs, volcano and botanical gardens! Warm Winter Wishes! I hope you’ll try this Caribbean Hot Chocolate whether you’re fit as a fiddle or under the weather!

Love y’all, Camellia

*p.s. A big thank you for the Winter Mug from sweet Paula! And..I used a cane sugar syrup made right here in Alabama for over 100 years -ALAGA -Cane Sugar Syrup made by Whitfield Foods, Montgomery, Alabama. (334) 263-2541. (This is a blend of corn syrup and cane syrup) You may be able to find cane sugar syrup in health food stores or online at Amazon.com A41AA1F6-78D7-4585-95A5-935B30C0E571

Cheerful Cherries…

AC822F94-E8A2-45B5-AD73-0D3B8D1EC2A2                                                                    Cheerful Cherries

If there’s anything that defines a Southern Holiday Meal – it’s colorful flamboyance! We want color, we want drama, we want festivity. We love a sense of the dramatic in our recipes-

  • Hot Fruit Compotes or Flaming Cherries Jubilee.
  • Pineapple Upside Down Cake may seem ordinary but think of the flourish of turning it out!
  • Dare I even mention Homemade Fruitcake glistening with candied cherries on top?
  • Adding Dried Cherries to Chocolate Desserts seems sophisticated, but the flavors are old and familiar.

In whatever form, cherries add a special touch to Holiday Dessert Tables.  Cherries, while not grown extensively in the South- are beloved; whether candied, brandied, bourboned or bottled, cherries seem to be downright cheerful. Then there are the Boxed Chocolate Covered Cherries- which always seem to appear close to the holidays in roadside stores and fine shops. I like them- in moderation, of course. Okay, I admit it- I also love bright red Maraschino Cherries! Plopped in a tall glass of icy Limeade, topping off an Ice Cream Sundae- Maraschino Cherries are festive and make even the simplest dessert cheerful. Where would Pink Lemonade be without a dose of Maraschino Cherry Syrup? One thing the South can lay claim to is- Cherry Co-Cola.. made famous at drugstore soda fountains, I admit to loving these- why? the clerk always topped it off with a bright red Maraschino Cherry!

The truth is, I’ve never tasted a genuine Maraschino Cherry and chances are neither have you. Genuine Maraschino Cherries are rare and costly- starting at twenty dollars per jar and they aren’t bright red, they’re almost black. The real ones are made from Marasa Cherry Liqueur with Marasa Cherries which have been grown in Luxardo, Italy for decades. What we know as the Iconic Ice Cream topper, Marschino Cherries must be labelled ‘imitation’ because it is a sour cherry soaked in red dye and flavorings to mimic the real deal which no longer contains alcohol, but rather relies on Almond Extract and other Flavorings.

With the Farm to Table movement in full swing,  combined with the short growing season for Cherries- methods to preserve and serve has grown. Fine chefs and bartenders began making their own versions of soaked cherries with no red dye or artificial flavorings! The result is amazing.  Southerners have been serving Brandied Fruit during the holidays since the 1700’s, using starters, made with fresh fruit, sugar and likker! Bourbon soaked Cherries have become fashionable and are now a specialty food item. I noticed a trend toward handcrafted Maraschino Cherries as a Specialty Food  and became intrigued several years ago. Experimenting…to my surprise- a version I call Cheerful Cherries was really good!C9B1A0F7-ACB7-4251-81EA-DAD640C009BB

To be honest, this was going to be one of those family secret recipes. I topped off my jar recently, honestly it’s too good not to share! Here’s how you make-   Camellia’s Cheerful Cherries

  • You will need:
  • Two 14.5 oz. Cans of Red Tart Cherries- whole pitted packed in water (not syrup)
  • 2 cups cane sugar
  • The juice of 1 large Lemon which has been stripped of zest- * I use the tool which creates long narrow strips.
  • 1-2 whole Star Anise
  • 1 whole Cinnamon Stick
  • 2 Teaspoons of Pure Almond Extract
  • 2 Teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup of Brandy
  • Method:
  • Drain Cherries, reserving one cup of Liquid.
  •  Put cherries in a heat proof glass jar, with a cinnamon stick, whole star anise and the strips of lemon zest.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of sugar,  reserved 1 cup of liquid from cherries, and lemon juice.
  • On medium low heat- Cook until all sugar is dissolved, then simmer 3-4 minutes. This is a flavored sugar syrup.
  •  Cool slightly, then add 2 teaspoons of Pure Almond Extract, 2 teaspoons of Pure Vanilla Extract and 1/2 cup of Brandy.
  • Pour flavored sugar syrup into a glass 2 cup measure- *for ease of pouring over the jarred cherries and spices.
  • Cover, Let sit for 2-3 days at room temperature. For stronger flavor- refrigerate a week or two before serving. Improves with Age. The cherries will be dark in color- not bright red! Keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator.
  • Yield 2 cups.

First of all, anything that improves with age rates high on my list- that’s my personal motto these days! Also, I have used Cherry Brandy which is a good substitute. Amaretto is a liqueur I plan to try, which will eliminate the need for Almond Extract. . These Cheerful Cherries make an excellent Holiday Gift, Tied with a Green Satin Ribbon- beautiful! Also, I’ve  had good success draining the cherries very well, covering with Fondant and Dipping in Chocolate- for our version of Chocolate Covered Cheerful Cherries.

*Fresh Cherries may be substituted for canned when in season- Use water instead of liquid to make the sugar syrup, then pour the hot sugar syrup over fresh cherries- which need to ripen longer to soften and absorb the flavors. I top off my jar occasionally with drained canned tart red cherries for a fresh batch. The liquid is wonderful when used as a flavorful Baste for a Holiday Baked Ham. Added to your favorite Barbeque Sauce there is an indefinable flavor!  Cheerful Cherries are not bright red, in fact the darker color indicates a thorough soaking – which is desirable. Making a batch of Hand Crafted Brandied Cherries or Mixed Fruit is easy and I guarantee a big dose of cheer goes a long way!

Love y’all, Camellia

*photographs are obviously mine. And the cherries which are dark have been soaked a while- the lighter color are freshly drained- I stir them to combine and refrigerate.

Aunt Daw Daw’s Basic Glaze…

img_2341My Aunt Daw Daw was always such fun to be around. Actually we pronounced it- Ain’t Daw Daw. Her real name was Dorothy and she was a cousin, not really an aunt. She laughed a lot. Daw Daw was one of those folks who didn’t just laugh, she laughed all over, her whole pleasingly plump body bobbed up and down- she clapped her hands, shook her curls and threw out at least one foot; tossed her head back so you could see every single one of her pearly little teeth, her cheeks were pink and tears squeezed out of her merry and bright blue eyes. Simply a sweet joy to be around.

Daw Daw never married and I personally think that was a crying shame. Some say she fell in love with a soldier headed to the Korean War. Daw Daw was one of my all time favorite relatives. And, we children loved her. She made us laugh and played the games we did.

  • Daw Daw not only loved to do the Hoola Hoop with us,
  • She played Swing the Statue (called it Sling the Statue),
  • Took the lead in Red Rover
  • And even tried to do the Limbo and the Twist  I think she threw her back out one time over that.
  • And! She was a tough line judge for Badminton too.

She played as hard as the children, then plopped down beside my grandmother, who would say ‘ Daw Daw, you’re just like sittin’ next to dough, and it rising.’ And the laughter would begin all over again.

Here’s the best thing- DawDaw always gilded the lily. She loved to try new things. Stayed up to date on fads and fashion, though she tended to wear sensible shoes with her bright floral or ruffled dresses. Still. Daw Daw truly kept up with baking trends…She was the first one to make-

  •  Sock It To Me Cake
  • Co-Cola or Seven Up Cake
  • Mississippi Cake
  • Milky Way Cake and!
  •   Daw Daw’s Kentucky Wonder Cake was slightly risqué, probably because of the spirits she added.

No doubt her Momma’s Devil’s Food Cake was a wicked vision. Daw Daw’s versions of any cake were the best, mainly because of the Glaze. Secretly we all suspected she doubled the recipe!  Generous, just like Daw Daw.

Often I recall hearing – Did anybody think to call Daw Daw? I wonder now if it was an oversight or an afterthought to call. And you know? Most folks treat a glaze as an afterthought– not Aunt Daw Daw… her baked goods were delicious because of the glaze! If Daw Daw ran short of time and bought a plain loaf cake or sheet cake from a bakery, she smothered it with one of her drippy sweet glazes, and not one of us thought a ‘bought cake’ was one bit scandalous.img_2341

Here’s how you make Aunt Daw Daw’s Basic Glaze:

  • 2 cups of sifted Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons softened Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Whole Milk, Half and Half or Evaporated Milk (Aunt Daw Daw’s favorite)

Sift powdered sugar in a medium bowl, add softened butter, mixing well. Add extracts, mix well- mixture will be thick. Add 2 Tablespoons of milk, stir well, add another Tablespoon, mix. *This will be a thick glaze, add more milk carefully to the consistency preferred. * If you add too much liquid, add small amount of sifted powdered sugar.

Variations: for Lemon Glaze, add zest of one lemon plus 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, reduce milk to 1-2 Tablespoons. Add to sugar, butter and vanilla. Omit Almond Extract. For Orange Glaze, zest of orange plus 2 Tablespoons of orange Juice, reduce milk to 1-2 Tablespoons, and omit Almond Extract. Add to sugar, butter and vanilla.

If you like a chocolate glaze- I’ll direct you to my grandmother’s amazing chocolate glaze-Southern Pound Cakes… since honestly, I don’t have Daw Daw’s.img_3006

If you’re thinking  Basic Glaze is an afterthought? Remember my Aunt Daw Daw- she thought glazes were a necessity- that extra special something for otherwise plain cakes, loaf cakes, sweet breads, such as banana bread, even cinnamon rolls and cookies. And frankly, a glaze is fun addition and always just as sweet she was.img_3191

Love y’all, Camellia

* It’s not uncommon in the South, to call an older cousin an aunt, it’s just one of those goofy things we do!  And! It’s a sad fact that I do not have one photograph of Aunt Daw Daw, yet she was unforgettable. And! All photographs are obviously mine.

Southern Comfort- Soups, Stews, Shrimp and Grits…

img_3081Winter in the South is fickle, some days chilly, windy, rainy or downright warm. And while I think most southern food is comfort food- there’s nothing like something warm in a bowl to make us all feel better about the weather and the world in general. It’s like a warm hug or a welcome home, now that’s southern comfort. And, let’s face it- this sort of comfort food is a great way to feed the multitudes!

  • Shrimp and Grits
  • Fresh Tomato Soup
  • End of Summer Vegetable Soup
  • Fresh Mushroom Soup
  • Mimi’s Lemon Butter Chicken
  • Camellia’s Spicy Shrimp

All of these and more have made us southern folks feel full and comforted. Often, it’s what’s served alongside these dishes, that’s just as delicious as the bowl of soup, stew, gumbo, dumplings or shrimp and grits! img_3082

  •  Cornbread Patties…
  •  Bighearted Cornbread…
  • Garlic Breadsticks
  • Saltines or Tiny Oyster Crackers
  • Toppings of grated cheeses, crumbled bacon, thin sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, red pepper flakes, even hot sauce img_3043

All add that special something to a one bowl meal. Think of a Build Your Own Shrimp and Grits Buffet… now, that would be a Comfort Food gathering! img_3098

And is there anything better than Tomato Soup with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, especially when it’s made in an iron skillet? Try Iron Skillet Sandwiches…

img_3085A lot of these Comfort Foods we’ve already written about, yet never fear we’ll give you the links and the prettiest pictures we could come up with at the time! However, I realized a grave error; while we’ve expounded on Bighearted Grits, I’ve never actually given you the recipe for topping those hominy grits with warm and spicy shrimp! So! That’s your bonus round today! And very well one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever given to you…img_3081

Now, we all know that every recipe has a story- Shrimp and Grits started out as an humble quick breakfast for shrimpers, then city folks and high browed chefs got in on the act! Here’s how you make the ‘shrimp part’ of Shrimp and Grits-

Shrimp and Grits

  • Grits made according to package directions. I prefer Hominy Grits.
  • 2-3 slices bacon
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (any size, I like medium for this)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
  • Grated zest added to the juice of one large lemon
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese, if desired and I do!
  • Chopped Green Onion Tops
  • While the grits are cooking, take an iron skillet, fry bacon slices until crisp, drain. Reserve 2-3 Tablespoons of Bacon Drippings in the iron skillet. Finish making grits and keep warm until ready to serve. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and hot sauce, reserve. Sprinkle raw shrimp with a dusting of Old Bay Seasoning, toss. In hot skillet, quickly cook shrimp in a single layer on both sides until pink. Swirl in lemon juice mixture and heat through. A thin gravy will form. Spoon Shrimp over a bowl of grits and a portion of gravy. Top with crumbled bacon, grated cheese and garnish with green onion tops. Feel free to add whatever toppings you like! Tip: Old Bay Seasoning is hot! Hot Sauce is hot! Start with a small amount and adjust seasonings. You may want to omit the Old Bay Seasoning and simply sprinkle raw shrimp with salt and pepper before cooking shrimp. Serve with Bighearted Grits…

This classic dish is quick and easy… makes 4 generous servings and may be expanded to feed a crowd!

And… The beauty of soups and stews is they all can increased to feed a crowd or served  for more than one meal! So, here are few links to some of our favorite soups and stews! All are full of ‘good for you’ ingredients! Enjoy!

Southern Tomato Soup…– we have several versions of tomato soup, one is a Summer Tomato Soup…img_3079

Mimi’s Lemon Butter Chicken…– an heirloom recipe she claimed would cure anything!img_3074

Homemade Mushroom Soup…  is loaded with fresh mushrooms, butter and fresh thyme!img_3080

The classic version of Chicken and Dumplings… with no big ol’ thick globs of dough either, strips of dough make it perfect! And I promise I’ll make you a batch of these soon!img_3099

Camellia’s Bighearted Spicy Shrimp is  way easier than you would believe! And, it is very similar to gumbo – which has the addition of sausage, green onions, bell peppers and tomatoes- It does start with a roux! Scary? the easiest way I’ve found to start a roux is found in Of Real Roux and Faux Beignets… Great with rice, though this gumbo can also be used alongside those Bighearted Grits! img_3083

Southerners are known for hospitality, comfort food and knowing how to feed the multitudes! Soups, Stews even Shrimp and Grits stretch farther because small amounts of meat or seafood are combined with delicious broths, vegetables, starches and seasonings, they are all satisfying and just plain good. Here’s a bowl of End of Summer Vegetable Soup, that is basically the last pickings of tomatoes, corn, okra, bean, peas, carrots, onions and a good chicken broth and if you have a bit of chicken- add that in too! Nothing better with a pan of cornbread! img_3082

Looks like we’re going to have a cold snap and  a bit of cold weather followed by warm spells and rain! Here’s hoping your house is filled with soups, stews, spicy shrimp and well…Southern Comfort Food!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine!

The Eggnog Party…

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DWe could have called it a Fruitcake Party, though fruitcake rarely makes an appearance. We could have called it a Caroling Party. We tried that one year- no one wanted to go. Ever. Again. Come to think of it- we could have called it the Bourbon Ball. Okay, that’s a bit pretentious and we’re better at eating than dancing. The truth is- fruitcake, bourbon balls and eggnog tend to be … let’s just say- under appreciated holiday fare. For over two decades, we’ve been going to an Eggnog Party, hosted graciously in the home of friends; attended by families and friends who are loved and cherished as the ‘family we have chosen for ourselves’. It’s uniquely southern, so it’s a traditional party, with the dining room table set buffet style and yes, family china and silver makes an appearance.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DThe Eggnog Party is sort of an unorganized , uncategorized gathering of folks bound by generations of communal experiences. Besides the heirloom recipe for Eggnog- what makes this party so charming is the Program, the Favors and the planning for it- often months in advance. There are children of… all ages and highly anticipated by all. The Program always includes Readings for children and one or more Readings which embody the Season and always includes Music. Sometimes the program is as zany as The Sister Act, a goofy rendition of Santa Baby or an airing of jovial grievances through Festivus, which, by decree shall never be repeated again. One of our talented guests might sing Ave Maria or an old fashioned Christmas Carol which would have been introduced by a Reading of the history of the hymn – always accompanied by a classical Guitar. Last year a Reading of Dylan Thomas’s ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’…followed by the old Lullabye- ‘All Through the Night’ with a soloist, the haunting strains of soft music as the rest of us sang the sweet Chorus- that one definitely brought forth a few sweet tears. The favor that year had the theme of Angels.

Always, regardless of the theme, the program is a mix of the significance of the season and the joy of it too. Any gifts are token and quietly exchanged – to be opened later, since this party isn’t centered around gift exchange, instead its more about exclaiming, getting caught up, enjoying the program, the music and always the bubbling effervescent love and laughter. And my oh my! the food! A Christmas Ham and a thinly sliced fragrant Turkey. The sides always include a relish plate, our beloved southern casseroles, a cheese ball, roasted and salted pecans, cheese straws, tiny rolls and a buffet laden with desserts. Groaning might be a better word.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DOf course, there’s a silver punch bowl filled with a frothy full bodied Eggnog-

  • The creamy color of magnolias and gardenias,
  • Light as a feather plucked from an angel’s wing,
  • Thick with cream and
  • Freckled with fragrant nutmeg.

In the South, we tend to claim Eggnog as our own, since George Washington of Virginia enjoyed it and recorded a recipe for it. In the southern tradition of leaving out a critical bit- in Washington’s case he left out the number of eggs! Eggnog really isn’t southern at all- it’s British, it’s European, it’s American- yet what makes this recipe Southern is the ‘spirits’. We tend to replace ale or sherry with ‘brown whiskey’ … Kentucky Bourbon or Tennessee Whiskey- some add Rum, to honor our southern proximity to the Sugar Fields and Caribbean flavors. Take a sip of Suellen’s Eggnog and ‘darlin’ you’ll talk southern to me.’

 

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s how you make this old classic which we know as Suellen’s Eggnog

  • 14 Large Eggs, separated
  • 1 pint Jack Daniel’s Brown Whiskey
  • 14 Tablespoons Cane Sugar
  • 1 Quart and 1/2 pint Whipping Cream

Separate eggs and reserve egg whites at room temperature. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until pale yellow. Slowly add whiskey, one silver teaspoon at a time, at first. Increase additions of whiskey beating continually until egg yolks and whiskey are combined thoroughly. Add sugar slowly, one silver tablespoon at a time. Whip cream and add slowly to mixture. In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into whiskey mixture. Sprinkle with fresh grated mixture. Keep thoroughly chilled. It is preferable to ladle from a silver punch bowl. Enjoy!

This Eggnog is an adaptation of an old recipe from a Talledega cookbook, one county over from where we live. *Please note that an essential tool is a silver spoon. This isn’t a pretentious tool- old recipes tend to specify silver spoons since other materials could affect the taste, generally metallic.

I’ll admit, I sip only one small punch cup, it’s a thick, rich holiday mixture unlike anything else. Eggnog is also something I taste just once a year at this amazing party. If you’re wishing you had a less spirited eggnog, I’ve had good success slowly melting homemade ice cream, adding a bit of whipped cream on top with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

7BF94A29-9C64-447C-B51F-C08E9EF6669DHere’s the thing- I’ll always associate Eggnog with the exquisite color of creamy magnolias, strengthened with the years of friendships sustained for such a long time… soft strains of music, gentle laughter, so much love, genuine acceptance, concern freely expressed and the joy only this season can bring. Here’s hoping your gatherings are as spirited as Bourbon Balls, as nutty as a Fruitcake, as fragrant as a Gardenia and full of Comfort and Joy!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Eggnog contains raw eggs, it’s best to use pasteurized eggs, and it should not be consumed by children due to alcohol content.

Pecan Pies…

Pecans are a cash crop in Alabama, indeed all across the South, folks love to have their own pecan trees. Pecan Pies are the iconic southern dessert, and while we wouldn’t turn down a piece of pecan pie any time of year- a pecan pie always makes her appearance on holiday tables. The truth is? It’s hard to imagine southern food without this wonderful nut. Some of my favorite cooks tend to enjoy- shelling pecans. Could I get a hallelujah for these fine ladies? I’ve had a few tell me they find it ‘relaxing’ to shell pecans… I wouldn’t know about that, it’s frustrating to me. To each his own. I do know this- to receive a bag of fresh shelled pecans is better than getting a bag of gold!

Now, I have to admit that I love pecans and pecan pies, though I also tend to restrict myself to baking the classic pecan pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I love variations on the classic too. Chocolate Pecan Pie and Sweet Potato Pie topped with Pecans is amazing too. I’d never turn down either variation. Still. I rarely make all three at the same time. I made a classic pecan pie and a chocolate pecan pie for Thanksgiving this year. The classic is my husband’s favorite and I had a special request for the chocolate pecan pie. These pies are amazing and might just be one of the easiest pies to make! The wonderful thing about the classic pecan pie is that it can be pre-baked now and thawed and reheated any time during the holidays! I’ll admit to having one lurking in the freezer right this minute! I haven’t tried freezing the chocolate one…yet I believe it also would work well. And, even though, making your own pie crust dough is a wonderful thing…with all the busyness of the holidays, why would you unless you’re very organized and made up pie crust dough ahead…I’d say go ahead and use it! It’s the holidays! You want to put your very best out for family and guests! Here’s how we make Camellia’s Chocolate Pecan Pie-

You will need:

  • Single Pie Crust for Deep Dish Pie (unbaked)
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter (melted)
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee
  • 3/4 cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (melted)
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecan Halves
  • Prepare crust in a deep pie crust dish or 8 inch cake pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For Filling Mixture- In a saucepan, on low heat, melt butter, then add chocolate chips to melt. Add Dark Corn Syrup, Sugar, Instant Coffee and Salt- combine well. Mix eggs in a small bowl and add to Filling Mixture, combining well. Stir in 1 1/4 cups of pecans, reserving a few to decorate the top of the pie, if desired. Pour Filling Mixture into prepared Pie Crust. Bake for 50-55 minutes until crust is lightly browned and filling is not completely set- *This is important- do not over bake the filling! When done, top the pie with reserved pecans in a circle to decorate if desired. Allow pie to cool completely on a wire rack.
  •  
  • You will need:
    1 Single Pie Crust for deep dish pie (unbaked)
    1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
    3 Large Eggs
    1 cup Sugar
    2 Tablespoons Butter, melted
    Pinch of Salt
    1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
    1 1/2 cups whole pecans
    • 1 Tablespoon Bourbon ( if desired)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare pie crust in deep dish pie pan. Line bottom of pie crust with whole pecans placed in concentric circles. Set aside to mix filling. Melt butter. In a mixing bowl, lightly mix eggs. Add corn syrup, sugar, melted butter, pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Combine well and pour carefully over pecans in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes, until pecans rise to top. Do not over bake. When pie is still hot sprinkle Bourbon over hot pecans (you will hear a sizzle!) Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour or until thoroughly cool and set. Keep chilled, before serving warm lightly if desired.

And, we’ve told you about another Pecan Pie that’s absolutely delicious!

It’s called Sweet Potato Pecan Pie… and is a wonderful twist on the classic pecan pie!

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We love to hear your stories and hope you will continue with the highly witty comments; of course your high praise when warranted and… In return, we will try to maintain high quality postings and avoid things, such as the questionable use of double negatives, the horror of dangling participles and the inexcusable use of ending a sentence with a preposition. Still. Occasionally we do admit to mangling the King’s English when we deem it appropriate for emphasis.

Just know this- we are so thrilled you’re here! Thank you for stopping by, and you’re always welcome to stay awhile. Soon we will be back with more delicious recipes, a few hints and pinches and hopefully a few laughs as well!

Love y’all, Camellia

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Getting Ready for the Holidays in the Kitchen…

Getting ready for the holidays is often overwhelming, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to get it all done- much less enjoy it! Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. It’s not about the perfect gifts. It’s really about being thankful for more things than one single day can contain. And let’s face it, getting ready for the holidays means good food and lots of it. So! I’ve put together a few things you can do quickly and easily while you’re getting celebration food ready for the holidays…

As far as you can- plan your holiday calendar for food and menus. Buy ahead, a bit each week instead of one huge purchase. Start with items that can be stored, chilled or frozen ahead of time. Note: Check out your seasonings and spices now- chances are they need to be replaced.

I also buy bulk pecans, almonds and cashews ahead of time. Pecans, cashews and almonds are stored in the freezer waiting to be toasted in the oven with butter and salt or even candied. Since nuts are often expensive- go ahead and buy them in advance. No southern cook worth her salt would be without at least pecans! Here’s how we’ve made Toasted Pecans

I make cheese balls ahead and freeze them- there’s always an event I’ve forgotten and believe me, they may not be the most exciting thing- yet somehow a cheese ball is always welcome! Speaking of cheese, I buy sharp cheddar in bulk also… Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese has never been turned down!

If you go ahead and chop celery and onion for making poultry stock or adding to dressing (we don’t actually say stuffing or cornbread dressing, yet for those who don’t know.. it’s made with cornbread!) anyway- put the whole batch in a large freezer bag. Take out what you need when you’re ready to use. I also make cornbread ahead of time, cool and freeze. These are such a time savers for me

If you serve a green salad with your meals, go ahead a week or so early and mix up homemade salad dressing and keep chilled, it will stay fresh about a week and that’s one less thing you have to worry about! And let’s face it, homemade salad dressing is always better!

Butter Balls aren’t named for turkeys… no butter balls will make your gravy silky and beautiful. They’re so easy to make, I keep them in the freezer almost all year round! And speaking of butter, the holidays require lots of butter! I buy it on sale if possible and freeze the excess.

Plan fun and easy treats- this is one of my favorites- Purchase donut holes, warm the donut holes, spear with long sticks. Then dip donut holes i your favorite fudge or caramel sauce, which may purchased as well. A platter of varied fruits, pound cake chunks and the donut holes makes a festive fun treat for children of any age!

 

I wish I was a wonderful yeast bread baker- I’m not. Still. In my area, there are wonderful rolls such as Millie Ray’s, Sister Schubert’s and even little Marshal’s biscuits! I buy ahead, freeze and bake fresh rolls for holiday meals and leftovers too! I’ve even been known to buy several pans of rolls, cinnamon rolls and orange rolls- stack them up, tie with a bow and it’s a wonderful gift or hostess gift!

Speaking of biscuits, Biscuit Mix is one of the 3 ingredients in Sausage Balls, which make an annual appearance! With one pound of sausage, one pound of shredded cheddar and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of biscuit mix formed into balls..baked at 350 until they’re done.. easy appetizer and! You can make up a double batch, freeze uncooked in a single layer on a sheet pan; stored in freezer bags- you’re almost ready for anything!

If you have one or two favorite casseroles or sides- double or triple the recipe and freeze or as in the case of Mimi’s Apricot Casserole– I double or triple the topping, seal in a freezer bag- set aside the other ingredients and foil baking pans so it’s ready to assemble and bake.

Green Bean Bundles seem to be a favorite side wherever they go. It’s just as easy to assemble them ahead of time, thaw slightly and bake until the bacon is browned and beautiful. There’s even a shortcut to get all of the flavor without even making one bundle! Place the green beans in a baking dish, cut bacon in pieces and scatter over the green beans, then add seasonings and bake as usual.

Simple Sugar Syrup is a must have for Southern Sweet Tea lovers. In a saucepan, using a 1/1 ratio of water and sugar, gently heat until the sugar is melted. That’s one cup of water simmered gently with one cup of sugar- in more plain English, darlin’ Cool and store in a tightly capped jar until you’re ready to use. Simple Sugar Syrup is also welcome for other sweetened drinks.

We all want our homes to have the scents of the holiday. There may be nothing that draws us in quite like cinnamon, cloves and warm scents… we’ve got that covered too as we get ready for the holidays. And no, it’s not a candle- it’s the easiest, most delicious Warm Punch you’ll ever make and your house will smell like a holiday home. Combine one large container of cranberry juice with one large container of pineapple juice- toss in a few cinnamon sticks and 4-5 whole cloves. * Feel free to float thin orange slices or wide strips of citrus zest, for a variation. Cover and on low heat, bring to a slow simmer. Your home will smell like it’s ready for the holidays!

The best advice of all for those wonderful holiday meals you’ll be making- is my grandmother’s creed- ‘Have a lot of a few things. Just make sure each thing is delicious.’ We will see you again soon- in the meantime… on your mark, get set, go! Getting ready for the holidays the kitchen!

Love y’all, Camellia * All photographs are obviously mine- with one glorious exception! Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese was memorialized by the very talented Becky Hadeed. Find her on Instagram @thestoriedrecipe .

Special Edition… Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon!

It is nearly impossible to make enough of Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon! That’s eating high on the hog! And… the reason for this Special Edition is because our candied bacon has been featured on the podcast and blog of the beautiful, talented Becky Hadeed @thestoriedrecipe! Her photography is ‘cookbook quality’ beautiful! I sent Becky a general recipe of how to make Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon, yet we wanted the recipe tweaked a bit- so, here’s the specific version with a few tips for making –

Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon

Mix together:

  • 1 1/3 cups Light Brown Sugar
  • 1- 1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Black Pepper OR
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper ( Black and Cayenne Pepper are to taste, I like it spicy! And often add both!)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

*Keep this mixture in an airtight container …it makes enough for at least a pound of bacon.

Method:

  • Prepare baking pan by lining with heavy duty foil, then lining with heavy duty parchment paper. Don’t skip this step! It is almost impossible to get the drippings off the pan!
  • After each batch remove and replace parchment paper. On top of parchment paper foil lined pan, set a baking or metal cooling rack.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • For each batch- cut 4 slices of thick bacon in half and arrange the 8 pieces on the baking rack leaving space between the slices. *Thick bacon is commercially sliced and is about 1/8 inch thick.
  • On each half slice of bacon, sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar mixture. (don’t overload bacon with topping, it will melt and run off onto the baking sheet and burn.
  • Press sugar topping lightly. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, check the bacon …it will always need more time- Bake for 10-15 minutes more checking every few minutes.

  • Remove Bacon and leave on rack to cool.
  • If properly cooked, the bacon will continue to crisp up slightly as it cools. Depending on the thickness of the bacon, it takes up to a total of 30 minutes for each batch.
  • Store Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon in single layers with wax paper or parchment between layers in an airtight container.
  • * Variation- add finely chopped walnuts if preferred or omit nuts entirely, though I must say- the pecans make it southern a delicious!

Serve: Alone as an appetizer (small parties…these go lightening fast!), Pecan Crusted Candied Bacon is wonderful crumbled over fruit or green salads. And! For a very special treat, crumble on top of a good vanilla ice cream, if you really want to dress it up– pour a teaspoon of bourbon over ice cream to enhance the vanilla flavor (if you dare! Adults only please) Then, top with a good caramel sauce then sprinkled chopped or crumbled bacon on top!

This Special Edition is an exciting time! It’s our first podcast!  The podcast with Becky of @thestoriedrecipe was a first for me! I mean, really…it’s a scary thing, wondering what your voice will sound like- if the recipes will work and okay, I didn’t want to sound like a redneck! Still. Becky did a great job making the recipes, including Mimi’s Award Winning Pimento Cheese look great! And… her editing skills on the video are amazing too. The episode includes two other wonderful guests and me! Here’s a link to Becky’s blog- The Storied Recipe and the podcast located at the beginning of her post.

I am honored to be Becky’s friend and to have appeared in her podcast, which is available as The Storied Recipe, Episode 4 and also through your podcast app. Follow Becky on Instagram @thestoriedrecipe as she continues to interview guests and discover recipes and the stories that go along with them! The table is where we find common ground. It’s the making of the food for our friends and families, sharing the stories and creating even more memories, especially during the holidays!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs belong to Becky Hadeed and are used with permission – except- the ‘candied bacon on the baking rack’ which is obviously mine!